What is WGT I can hear some of you asking. It is the huge German goth music festival Wave Gotik Treffen that takes place In Leipzig every year. It is one of the largest goth music festivals in the world and people travel from everywhere to go to it.
Two people named Jean-Luc and Miss X wrote this article specifically for English speaking festival participants since many do not know all of the right wing neo-Nazi crap that has been happening at the festival. Everything from known neo-Nazi musicians being allowed to play at the event to white nationalists being allowed to set up stalls to share their hate filled agendas. The German press has reported on these very problematic issues, but such articles have not really gained traction outside of Germany. According to the article the people who run WGT will ban people from the festival if they speak out against it.
Well, quite frankly, since I have never been into music festivals I really don’t give a shit if I am on their permanently ‘banned’ list. I have included the entire article here, and I will give my thoughts under some of the sections. The section titles were created by the authors and the article can be found here. All working links are theirs as are grammatical mistakes. It was published on June the 3rd of 2023.
For more than 20 years, one of the largest Goth festivals on the planet is working with artists and publishers that are affiliated with far right extremism, meaning they book them or allow them to run their business on the festival premisses. The company behind the festival is doing this consistently and repeatedly and this is no secret. There is very little discourse regarding this in the goth scene and there has been next to no impact in the few years where it has been mentioned. Newspapers and magazines covered this, everything you can say on the matter is old news, except for the fact that this is not historical information, this is ongoing. The only people that are still really on the matter are local Antifa groups.
Since I have zero interest in attending music festivals I personally have never looked into the history of WGT. Since so many people from the UK and the US go every year you would think that the news about all of this white nationalist shit would have gotten out, but apparently people are scared to speak out?
Why write about this at all?
We believe this is relevant. Far right ideologies have real world debilitating impact. jl grew up with his family exposed in the Yugoslav civil war, a war motivated by nationalist ideology and racism. His family never fully recovered from the propaganda tactics used to promote division. Today most of us are in some way impacted by Russia’s criminal war on Ukraine that is motivated by the ultranationalist ideologies of figures like Alexander Dugin. Sociopolitical developments like these benefit from a soundtrack, from some emotional priming, from social events normalising the motives.
There has been a marked rise lately of this within alternative subcultures and in society in general.
WGT has a history of platforming artists and publishers promoting these motives. At the same time the festival never positioned itself, never distanced itself from the far right, claiming to be apolitical, which in practice meant they don’t wanna talk about it.
Most of the time when somebody says they are apolitical that just means they support a far right agenda and are too chickenshit to share their real views. White nationalists tend to be cowards. I, and others in leftist circles, have witnessed this over and over again.
When X talked about these things in a series of instagram stories on Monday, we learned that surprisingly many non German speakers had no clue about these things, so obviously there are still some people that can consider this whole story news. And maybe some of the Germans are too young to know.
I’m still surprised as hell that this news has been so well hidden outside of Germany.
When we asked ourselves why these people had no clue, we figured there is hardly any non German info on this (unless you wanna do research on some Russian neofolk fan forums or something).
We decided to change this and give our international friends some insights on things German goths don’t seem super happy to discuss.
I give them props for wanting to bring all of this dankness into the light.
So what’s happening at WGT?
This little article does not have the right scope to give you a full chronicle of events. What we’d however like to help you understand is that WGT as a festival is open to far right extremists over years and decades, even over two different companies organising the festival. If we would look at all of the individual occurrences we could claim accidents, but instead this all repeats. It is a constant of the festival, it is a feature, not a bug. We can’t tell whether this extreme right influences are just bound to a some small group of individuals or whether it is a small yet intrinsic element of the scene. No clue. But to give you a bit of background we compiled some facts and events to give a concrete idea what this is about, so you can decide for yourself.
I totally wouldn’t be surprised if this is a concerted effort on the part of German white nationalist groups to spread their message to a larger audience. Obviously somebody has connections with festival organizers in Germany to be able to pull off this level of crap.
In the year 2000, Mayor of Leipzig Holger Tschense feels forced by public pressure to prohibit Joseph Klumb, frontman of “Von Thronstahl”, to perform at the festival. The promoters do not cancel the slot though, so the band plays their CD while standing on stage in protest, holding a shovel and a flag with a black sun on it, a symbol originating in Nazi Germany, first seen in a floor mosaic in Heinrich Himmlers fancy little SS castle. The audience cheers the performance in front of Völkerschlachtdenkmal. This gig is not listed in WGT’s gig history, but if you google it you can still find the limited edition live recording from 2001 on discogs released on Fasci-Nation Recordings. Distributed by VAWS, which we’ll go into later. Von Thronstahl also wrote about the performance on their own webpage – we’re not going to link to that, you can find that yourself if you really want to look at it.
This is just so fucked up I can’t.
In 2009, WGT printed Heinrich Himmlers black sun (see above) on the festival’s “Obsorgekarte”, the ticket you needed for camping and public transport in Leipzig. Goth band ASP wrote a public protest note (in German) and announced they wouldn’t play WGT ever again unless the promoter would give an apology and explanation. The explanation they received was not signed in the name of the company, but rather by individuals. They claimed that none of the cultural creators involved is following any political goals with WGT and that the black sun is somehow about the 2000 year jubilee of the Varus battle. This legendary battle of Germanic tribes against the Romans was used several times throughout history to create an emotional backing for a political unity of Germany, to create some founding narrative of Germany that is predating any modern constitution. While there are in fact similar looking objects used by the tribes of the time, these are not the ones WGT used. They used the 12 S-runes, as found on Heinrich Himmler’s beloved floor piece. ASP wasn’t happy with that explanation and never showed up again. Threads about the issue in the official WGT forum were deleted by admins citing a “no politics” forum policy.
I actually know quite a bit about the ancient Roman Empire. In one form or another it lasted about 2,000 years, while the Nazis were in power for less than twenty. The Nazis were losers, just like modern German white nationalists. It’s gross as hell that they got away with this shit in the year 2009. The organizers of the WGT are pathetic for allowing this crap to happen. Kudos to ASP for refusing to play a show there.
For decades now, publisher VAWS has a booth in the merch area. The people that distributed that Fasci-Nation limited edition Von Thronstahl record according to discogs. The German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution took note of the company in 2002 and reported: “Through special offers and events, the alleged fascination with the aesthetics of fascism and National Socialism is to be revived, thus promoting right-wing extremist views on a cultural level.”. If you must, check out their website, you should be able to figure the general idea. You’ll find yourself somewhere between “Covid is a bio weapon”, “Argentinian exile Nazi isn’t really a Nazi” and “Let’s sell industrial tracks by putting tits on the cover”. Maybe you also wanna buy some Riefenstahl stuff.
They are allowed a booth there and nobody has done anything against it? The festival has the numbers to run this kind of shit out physically so why are people sitting on their hands? If I was wandering around a festival and saw that kind of shit I would have some very heated words and I might accidentally knock things down with my cane.
In 2015, WGT booked Majdanek Waltz, an openly fascist Russian band named after the concentration and extermination camp Majdanek. These are people that like to sing about how much they love their swastika. You can’t make this shit up. A German article looking into the band and its lyrics can be found here.
In 2022, WGT booked Of The Moon And The Wand, which has long-standing ties to nazi band Der Blutharsch. It was the seventh time the band played the festival. A local Antifa page posted a German article about it here.
In 1999, 2009 and also this year 2023 Fire + Ice performs at WGT. Frontman Ian Read, when asked in an interview about fascist and racist ideas, utters that he feels that no idea is completely worthless. Read claims that Germans suffer from a post war brain wash and should stop thinking about what is “correct”. He claimed that in this context of this brainwash the German abbreviation for concentration camp (Konzentrationslager) was changed from KL to KZ to make it sound more scary, implying that some kind of post war propaganda is trying to make things seem worse than they are. The thing with the change of abbreviation is even correct, except this change was done earlier as you can read in Eugen Kogons 1946 book “Der SS-Staat”. Kogon, himself a concentration camp inmate, writes that SS Soldiers preferred KZ over the official abbreviation because it sounds more, well, scary. Some more comprehensive background in English can be found here.
That dude who threw that famous punch in Seattle a few years back needs to get his ass to WGT because he is needed there. I can’t believe people just stand there and let this shit happen. That is what blows my mind the most about this.
Also this year, Austrian stand-up comedian Lisa Eckhart was booked. She’s among that breed of comedians who make money by saying “controversial” things, on national TV. Let me give you examples: “The erection of the black person’s penis requires all seven litres of blood that a human being has at his disposal.” or how do you like: “Paying reparations to the Jews is like giving Red Bull founder Mateschitz a Red Bull.”. Lisa likes using the N-Word a lot and believes that Asian people see the world in widescreen blockbuster format. That’s why they’re so afraid of Covid, you know? That’s all not enough to put her in the nazi corner I guess. She however works hard to stretch boundaries.
Somebody should have pelted her with eggs. Just saying.
Who feels like they are getting an advantage out of her work? VAWS had her face plastered all over their booth. This might give a hint. The fact that she, of all German-speaking standup comedians, was booked despite having no known goth scene relationship will give you another.
This is one of the reasons why I think a white nationalist network is behind this shit. Its coordinated.
As previously mentioned, the above list of events is not comprehensive and we could go on for a while, but we’ll leave it like this because we have other, better hobbies.
So what does this all mean?
WGT is a festival that is very open towards the right and even the extremist right. This is not a bug, it’s a feature. For decades it is a selling point of the festival. If you look at their language, their collabs, their general behaviour you will find dogwhistles and hints. If you look at how they whined on facebook in 2022 about how the city of Leipzig offered parts of the festival ground to Ukrainian refugees, inconveniencing their festival planning, there was barely any expression of solidarity. They simply blamed Leipzig. One could say that’s not too surprising for a promoter that likes to book Russians that like their swastikas a lot. Despite all this, people come to the festival like clockwork, every damn year.
What a bunch of assholes. Seriously.
What we see is of course not a right wing subversion of the scene as a whole. What we see is a scene that seems largely indifferent to their openness to the extreme right. People are unwilling to raise any critical voice, don’t care enough or have no clue what to do. Likely many festival goers feel like their culture was taken hostage by people they actually don’t wanna hang with. WGT is the one big party where they meet all their friends and they want to have a god time and there is no reason to deny them a good time. It’s like facebook. It’s kinda shit, but we can’t really agree on where else to go. And of course there are actual nationalists, conspiracy nutters, third reich apologists, blood and soil occultists and tons of boring, conservative boomers on top. This interesting mixture produces bizarre situations.
It is the time honoured ‘not wanting to lose goth scene cred’ excuse. Nobody wants to step up and say shit because they are afraid of losing that cred and I find that pathetic as hell. Especially when it involves excusing away neo-Nazi talking points. Remember kids, it is more important to attend a festival and be ‘seen’ than to openly act against neo-Nazis.
Recently I saw that one Tobias Theiss is making a free android app (WGT-Guide) that helps visitors to organise their party schedule. WGT has a lot of venues and stages, so this app is helpful. Since Tobias righteously doesn’t like these fascist tendencies, he omits certain acts from the app and doesn’t show them. This way he produces an independent app, for free, that adds value to a festival with above track record and calls this anti-fascist action. We can’t blame Tobias and I salute him for his service for the community, and for not going crazy because of the 1-Star reviews right wingers give him on the google play store. Still, that’s an interesting kind of mental gymnastics, that might be familiar to many people that participate and feel not perfectly well about it.
That is cool that he refuses to list the neo-Nazi crap on his WGT app. He shouldn’t have had to make it in the first place, but this is the world we are living in right now.
So what do?
We don’t go to WGT because we’re tired of that crap and do not want to put money there. It’s not even that someone books a Nazi band in Sachsen, that happens all the time. It’s rather the jarring indifference of the the scene, audience and artists alike. We very much understand that not going isn’t a good option for other people. But if you’re not indifferent as a festival goer and are just wondering what you actually can do about this, we have a few ideas.
Proves that parts of the goth subculture are still apathetic as hell. This shouldn’t come as a surprise because the same shit was happening over thirty years ago.
First off: share this information. This is not for the fame and follows, but certainly it would be helpful to let people know. WGT deems itself “unpolitical” in the sense that it doesn’t want to discuss politics. This does not apply to us. The goth scene is not discussing these things enough – we assumed everyone knew, but judging from the amount of very concerned DMs we got, that’s not the case. As mentioned in the intro, on some of this stuff we couldn’t even find sources in English. Feel free to share any of the things we made available or use them as a reference. If you do decide not to go to WGT, and people ask why you’re staying home, tell them why.
Please share the article, because more English speakers do indeed need to learn about this.
Inform yourself about how to spot a neo-nazi, which symbols and dogwhistles are in circulation etc, so you can act on it if you see them.
A link all about the symbols and groups is further down..
If you’re an artist and WGT tries to book you, we understand that this is a good career opportunity for you and it’s difficult to say no. Please consider that being on a stage gives you a platform, and you can use that platform to make a statement. Nobody said your performance can’t include some educational content or that you can’t curate your audience by telling certain people to leave. Nobody said you can’t do a diss track. Nobody said you can’t publicly stand up for something.
I wish more bands would speak out while on stage.
Make it uncomfortable to be a neo-nazi or to be in close proximity to them. Leave the situation or conversation and tell people why. If you feel up for it, you can confront people directly, but only do this if you feel it’s safe for you to do so, and remember you don’t owe these people a debate about their batshit ideas. In Germany, you can actually call the police if you see a suspicious symbol. There’s a good chance the symbol is illegal or restricted and you don’t even have to be there while the cops sort it out.
Good advice. Some neo-Nazis are very violent so if you are going to confront one in person make sure you have friends with you who will back you up.
You will possibly find more familiar stuff in there than you would like.
Contact any organisation that allows this stuff on its premises and demand an explanation and apology for why it is there. Demand that they correct the situation. You can write them an email or call them out publicly, whatever suits your comfort level. Again, if you feel safe, you can ask people at the festival directly.
This is so important. If people do not confront neo-Nazis they feel safe which is something that should never be allowed to happen.
Be however informed that people criticising WGT are reported to have lost access to festival accreditation over it before, so if you are a journalist or photographer, keep this in mind.
I don’t give a shit since I will never go to it. Plus, calling out neo-Nazis is more important than going to a festival. Especially when the festival is allowing neo-Nazis on stage and in booths.
“People like us need to stop fuelling dystopias only because we grew up loving its aesthetics.”
Marco Visconti distilled it all down to this one very handy statement. It is not wise to help make negative expectation and dystopian outlooks a reality. Not on an individual, not on a sociocultural or political level. While this is a different and pretty complex issue that can be addressed another time: our stories and images matter. Our relationship to them matters and it shapes out reality. We hope this resource will help you to navigate all this for yourself and will help you to take charge if you feel you should.
From the title of this blog you know I love dystopian and post-apocalyptic media, however I would never support neo-Nazi crap. Plague? Sure. Earthquakes? Sure. Space alien invasion? Sure. Neo-Nazi crap? Hell no!
I hope sharing this article has helped people learn the truth as to what is really going down at WGT. Please share this or the article itself so that people can make an informed decision as to whether they want to go next year or not.